tv Fault Lines Al Jazeera September 4, 2013 5:30pm-6:01pm EDT
>> he is the last detainee from guantanamo bay prison to have returned home to live in yemen. >> i guess that tells you that you were gone for a long time. >> the united states still holds 164 men captive at guantanamo, about half of them are yemeni. 56 have been cleared for release but are waiting to go free. in this episode of fault lines we have traveled to yemen to ask what the consequences of america's policies of indefinite detention have been, and to find out what life is like here after guantanamo.
>> mohammed was studying in pakistan when the aftershocks of >> mohammed was studying in pakistan when the aftershocks of september 11th began reverberating around the world. one night in the spring of 2002 he was visiting a student house when pakistani authorities raided it. he was arrested, along with more than a dozen others.
>> two months later, the pakistanis turned mohammed over to american forces. faruq ali ahmed had also traveled abroad, to teach quran. >> what reasons did the pakistanis give for detaining you? >> faruq spent eight years at guantanamo. like mohamed, he denies having been involved in attacks on us targets or terrorism of any kind. >> though they labeled him an enemy combatant and said he was associated with al qaeda, the united states never charged him
>> colonel lawrence wilkerson was secretary of state colin powell's chief of staff from 2002 to 2005. >> and they were turned over on bounty basis, usually, to the united states, and whisked back to guantanamo as if they were the hardcore al qaeda operatives or taliban leadership. but it became increasingly clear that they were not. >> if senior bush administration officials knew many guantanamo detainees hadn't committed crimes against the united states, why didn't they just send men like faruq and mohamed back home? >> and they weren't guilty of anything except having been in the wrong place at the wrong time. >> we're heading to st michael's maryland where donald rumsfeld, former secretary of defense keeps a summer home. we want some answers from one of the men who was key in setting up the prison at guantanamo bay.
>> to this day only 7 of the 779 men the us has held at guantanamo have been tried and convicted by a military tribunal. the tribunal's chief prosecutor has said the government is unlikely ever to put more than about twenty on trial, less than 3% of those detained since the prison was opened. currently, there are forty-six "indefinite detainees" who are considered too dangerous to release, but impossible to try. an obama administration task force has said either there isn't sufficient evidence against them, or what evidence there is, is tainted.
>> mr. rumsfeld, hello, mr rumsfeld, it's wab kinew with al jazeera. >> yes sir. >> i'd like to ask if i could speak to you for a minute. we're doing a documentary on guantanamo bay prison. >> you make an appointment with my office and see what happens. >> we've tried to contact you thru your office and they haven't (door slam) gotten back to us. mr rumsfeld we'd like to know why, how you justify detaining many men in guantanamo bay who are innocent and can't be tried in court. >> you've told the american people they're hardcore al qaeda operatives. you can't then suddenly say, "oh, made a mistake. these people were not really tough al qaeda operatives. oh, my god. we've got to reverse this. we've got to close this camp." you can't do that. it's politically impossible.
>> we came to yemen to see what sort of life awaits the men after guantanamo. however no detainee has returned here since 2010. the one exception is adnan latif. he came back in 2012, in a body bag. >> it took more than three months from the day mohamed latif heard the news his brother adnan had been found dead in a cell, until he was able to bury his body here. a military autopsy at guantanamo determined he'd committed suicide. and by the time the us military delivered his body back to
yemen, it was too late for his family to have an independent autopsy performed. >> adnan had been cleared for release from guantanamo three times before president obama imposed a moratorium on returning detainees to yemen. in 2010, a dc district court ordered that he be freed. >> an appeals court overturned the ruling. >> guantanamo doctors had diagnosed adnan with bipolar and borderline personality
disorders. the guards found his behavior "extremely challenging" and reported that he made statements asking to die. >> he was expressing a message, sure he said that he wanted to commit suicide in his letters. that this place was driving him mad, that he was miserable but it's not clear to me that he actually wanted to end his own life. >> his lawyer and family question the conclusions of a 2012 us military investigation that adnan committed suicide by overdosing on 24 tablets of an anti-psychotic drug he managed to hide from the guards. >> they didn't even consider the possibility that someone gave adnan these pills after he got to his cell.
>> before adnan died, the obama administration had placed a moratorium on returning to yemen, even those it had cleared for release. over the years, countries like saudi arabia, afghanistan and pakistan have seen almost 90% of their guantanamo detainees transferred, whether to prisons or to freedom. but so far, fewer than a fifth of yemeni detainees have been returned. >> these parade grounds were filled with thousands of spectators on national unity day in 2012, when a member of al qaeda blew himself up right here. the blast killed some hundred army officers and injured 200 more. now there's nothing to suggest a connection between the bomber and guantanamo. but this highlights one of the fears the us government has with returning detainees to this country. that after their return, they might carry out an attack like
the one commemorated here, or even ones against american targets. >> what we say to the americans is that "if they help yemen, as far as security issues are concerned, that they and our regional players also help in the rehabilitation of those that are released from guantanamo, that yemen is capable really of handing the issue. >> since 2009, the united states has used drone and missile strikes to target and kill what they say are al qaeda operatives in yemen. but as the drone war escalated, and in the aftermath of the revolution that removed president ali abdulah saleh from power, al qaeda in the arabian peninsula grew. the yemeni and us governments say they are co-operating to push al qaeda back. >> we are not fighting terrorism for the united states, we are fighting terrorism for the security of yemen. >> why not say we are not going to help you until detainees come home? >> i don't think this is the
right approach. the right approach is to sit and look at the risk and benefits of every decision you take. it is not a bargaining table. >> we want to find out more about al qaeda in yemen, so we travel to meet a man who is said to have preached in afghanistan in the late 90s - and to have arranged osama bin laden's marriage to his fifth bride. rashad ismael has two relatives detained at guantanamo. his brother sadeq was released back to yemen in 2007, after six years. rashad says that a few yemenis have joined up with al qaeda after returning from guantanamo. but he blames poverty & rampant unemployment, and american counter- terrorism policy.
but in may, as he laid out the next steps in america's war, the president announced his intention to renew efforts to close guantanamo - and lifted the moratorium on returning detainees to yemen. [...] given my administration's relentless pursuit of al qaeda's leadership, there is no justification beyond politics for congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened. president obama has the legal authority to transfer many detainees out of guantanamo - but his critics say he has so far lacked the political will to do so. i'll be the first to acknowledge that the administration could be doing more to close guantanamo. but congress has enacted laws that prevent the administration from using us funds to transfer detainees to the united states to be tried or imprisoned. there are no human rights abuses occurring at guantanamo bay house republicans are trying to re-impose the ban on transfers back to yemen. and at the first congressional
hearing on guantanamo in four years, closing it seems more controversial than ever. i have a hard time seeing how it is responsible to shut down our detention facilities and send these individuals home where they almost sure would be released and almost surely would return to threaten and kill more americans. republican congressman mike pompeo sits on the house intelligence committee. wab: do you support the right to a fair trial? pompeo: i support the absolute right for those military tribunals to move forward down at guantanamo bay. wab: there are indefinite detainees meaning people who are not cleared for transfer, and yet there's not sufficient evidence to carry them to a military tribunal. so doesn't that violate the right to a fair trial? we are still at war. and we have captured enemy combatants. we have the absolute authority under the laws of war. i'm a veteran myself. when the war's
over, we'll always act in compliance with every single law of war. america always has, and we always will. thank you. sorry i've got to run. wab: so indefinite detention in the meantime is ok? it's not indefinite sir. it's continuing while the war is going on. rumsfeld knew damn well he'd be out of office and wouldn't have to answer that question. but you just asked it. what do we do with them? do we leave them there forever? as an american citizen who is not a coward, i'd be willing to release every one of them tomorrow morning, and face them on the battlefield again if necessary. but we've got a lot of cowards in this country these days. in yemen, the news that obama had lifted the moratorium had raised hopes high. hayil al mithal told his family that when he returned from guantanamo after more than a decade, he wanted to get married.
they want to know why - if the us is convinced hayil was a dangerous "enemy combatant" and an al qaeda operative - he won't be tried. amanda berry across town, the banner of another 'indefinite detainee' hangs outside the al hilah home. abdulsalam's family has put up a ton of posters asking for his release. this one asking "when will the son of freedom rise." it speaks to a few things. one obviously to the family's sway in this area but also to the fact that there isn't a stigma attached to being a family
member of a guantanamo detainee. and as you see these posters up on vehicles, in storefronts, hanging from banners, it suggests that there's a ton of public support at least in this area for having those guantanamo detainees return home. nabil al hilah represents detainee families on a ministerial committee set up by the government - the same government he blames for what's befallen his brother. in his last skype call with his family, arranged through the international red cross, abd as- salam told his brothers about the hunger strike that started last february - at its peak, more than 100 detainees were participating.
the hunger strike has drawn international attention and prompted obama's renewed pledge to close guantanamo, and the lifting of the moratorium on transfers to yemen. in july, the department of defense said it was going to begin holding hearings for 71 men, including those on the list of "indefinite detainees," to determine whether their captivity is still warranted. since their release, mohamed and faruq have done their best to move on. wab: since you've been released. has al qaeda in the arabian peninsula ever tried to recruit you?
they have found scarce jobs in a honey store in taiz. faruq is studying to be a lawyer. both have married, and are expecting their first children soon. the government of the united states hasn't apologized or compensated them for the years they spent imprisoned. nearly seven months after the hunger strike began, some 35 men continued to refuse food at guantanamo bay. in washington, the white house declined to speak with fault lines for this report. in yemen, families are still
. . >> hello and welcome to al jazeera. tommy haas in new york. our top stories at this hour. >> i didn't set a red line. the world set a red line. >> support overseas for a strike on syria. more on president obama's message as he tries to get help in europe. at home the president's team tries to convince law makers to give the okay for military intervention. a man who held three young women captive for a decade kills himself barely a month into his life sentence.